More Lewisham boys are quitting education early to seek work, report suggests

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Service

Fears have been raised that boys in Lewisham are dropping out of school so they can take casual jobs to help their cash-strapped families.

New figures showed almost one in 10 male pupils in the borough were not in education or employment after their GCSEs last year.

Only 91.2 per cent of male pupils in Lewisham remained in school, training or work after the age of 16 in 2023, a 2.6 per cent drop on the previous year.

A council report about standards in the borough’s schools branded the figure ‘unusually low’.

In contrast, 95.6 per cent of female pupils in Lewisham continued in education, training or employment after their GCSEs, an increase on the year before.

At a council meeting to discuss the figures on March 12, Labour councillor Jack Lavery asked Lewisham’s director of education Angela Scattergood: “Could these individuals be in informal employment, supporting their families?”

Cllr Scattergood replied: “We have heard anecdotally from the sixth form colleges that there are increasing numbers of sixth formers who are working and missing school because they’re working.”

She added: “It’s a really good point about whether it’s more boys that are being called upon or feeling the need to be the providers for their families.”

Councillor Yemisi Anifowose also expressed concern that male pupils were achieving worse grades than female pupils in their A-levels.

Cllr Anifowose, member for Hither Green, said: “For key stage five results it seems there’s a five point [percentage] gap, which is very significant and quite wide.

“It’s one thing if boys are not attending school, but these boys are attending school and yet they’re underperforming compared to their female counterparts.”

Figures from the council report show there was a gender gap between male and female pupils at every stage of education in Lewisham.

Just 64 per cent of Lewisham boys achieved a good level of development at the end of their first year in school, compared to 76 per cent of girls.

At the end of Year 2, just 54 per cent of boys in the borough were judged to have a good standard of writing, compared to 67 per cent of girls. By the end of primary school, just 56 per cent of boys meet the standards for writing, compared to 66 per cent of girls.

At GCSE and A-level, male pupils’ achievement lags five per cent behind those of their female counterparts in the borough. Just 58 per cent of male pupils in Lewisham are qualified to AS or A-level standard or equivalent by the age of 19, compared to 72 per cent of female pupils.

Achievement at Lewisham primary schools continues to compare poorly overall to similar boroughs, while at GCSE level, pupils’ results were overall worse than other London boroughs and England as a whole.

Lewisham was ranked in the bottom 25 per cent of English local authorities for results in academic subjects at key stage five.

Pictured top: Cllr Angela Scattergood at Monday’s council meeting where this issue was debated (Picture: Lewisham council)

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